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11 days of events planned for Olympic 40th anniversary

Dr. Charles M. Kerr of Arizona carries the Olympic flame during the opening ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. (Photo provided by 40th Lake Placid Olympic Anniversary Organizing Committee)

LAKE PLACID — While celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games from Feb. 13 to 23, residents will be focused on the Olympic legacy of this village: past, present and future.

Yet organizers on the 40th Anniversary Celebration Committee didn’t want just one or two organizations leading the way, such as the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates the Olympic venues, or the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. They wanted everyone involved, according to committee Chair Lori Fitzgerald.

“It kind of started around a bar table,” Fitzgerald said Jan. 30. “We were having cocktails one night at a (Lake Placid) Business Association meeting and started as a conversation of a way to create this as a real community event, so that it wasn’t just about the Olympic venues, ORDA or just a ROOST-sponsored event. That is was something that the entire community could participate in.”

The XIII Olympic Winter Games were held from Feb. 13 to 24, 1980, at venues in Lake Placid and Wilmington: the Olympic Center (hockey and figure skating), speedskating oval (long-track speedskating), ski jumps (ski jumping and Nordic combined), Mount Van Hoevenberg (bobsled, luge, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined and biathlon) and Whiteface Mountain (Alpine skiing).

Similarly, the 40th Anniversary Celebration Committee is spreading the venues for special events around Lake Placid and Wilmington. Also, just like in 1980, the events will begin one day before the opening ceremonies.

Aside from attending the many events, there are opportunities for locals to get involved with the parade and opening ceremony on Friday, Feb. 14.

“We’ve invited youth organizations, any Olympians who are local who want to participate, as well as any 1980 volunteers — red coats, blue coats — who want to come walk in the parade on Friday night, we’re encouraging them to come and do that,” she said. “We’d like to have as many Olympians and red coats and blue coats at the opening ceremony as we can so that we can acknowledge them.”

Red coats, Fitzgerald explained, were 1980 volunteers who were hostesses, and blue coats were 1980 volunteers at venues helping with a variety of duties.

“A lot of them still have their coats, and miraculously they still fit in their coats,” she said.

For the torch run prior to the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, some of the original 52 torch runners from 1980 will be participating.

“And they also miraculously fit in their uniforms,” Fitzgerald said.

The celebration begins at 5 p.m. Feb. 14 with a torch run and parade down Main Street where several of the games’ volunteers joined by past, present and future Olympians will take turns carrying the flame.

Following the parade, the torchbearers will carry the flame to the North Elba Show Grounds to begin the anniversary lighting ceremony. The event, which begins at 5:45 p.m., will be held on the same site as the 1980 opening ceremony.

The cauldron was restored prior to the 10th anniversary of the 1980 games.

Lake Placid has celebrated anniversaries of the 1980 Winter Olympics before, but Fitzgerald said the 40th anniversary is important.

“Some of the people who participated, those on the Olympic Organizing Committee, those volunteers, a lot of the folks who were involved locally are beginning to age, and we want to make sure that we acknowledge them as we go along,” Fitzgerald said.

“The message really blends well with what’s happening now around the redevelopment of the Olympic venues in preparation for the international University Games and how that money is being used for those games. That money is really being used as a reinvestment into this legacy that we created starting back in 1932, and even before.”

The 40th Anniversary Celebration Committee consists of 21 community members: Patty Clark, Zach Clark, Catherine Ericson, Fitzgerald, Carrie Gentile, Eric Granger, Jay Harvey, Cathy Johnston, Sarah Kane, Danielle LaCavalla, Heather LePere, Jon Lundin, Molly Mayer, Greg Moore, Jeff Potter, Mayor Craig Randall, Tim Robinson, Beatty Schleuter, Jill Cardinale Segger, Judy Shea and Paul Wylie.